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Interview with Karen Stanbary, ISGS 2019 Fall Conference Speaker

Karen Stanbary, MA, LCSW, CG®, BCG Trustee, is an author and national lecturer focusing on topics related to using genetic evidence correlated with documentary evidence to solve genealogical brick walls.
A Chicago local, she holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of Chicago and has completed advanced graduate study in Social Anthropology at the Colegio de Michoacán, Mexico. Her genealogical practice specializes in Midwestern U.S., Chicago, and Mexican research as well as complex problem-solving, unknown parentage, and DNA analysis.
She is a coordinator and faculty member at GRIP, IGHR, and SLIG. She received the NGSQ Award for Excellence for her complex evidence case study incorporating traditional documentary research and autosomal DNA analysis in the June 2016 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Most recently, she published “Drowning in DNA? The Genealogical Proof Standard Tosses a Lifeline” in Debbie Parker Wayne’s book Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies. She holds the credential Certified Genealogist from the Board for Certification of Genealogists where she serves as a Trustee and is chair of the standing DNA Committee.

ISGS is thrilled to count Karen as one of our speakers at this year's Fall Conference, October 25-26 in Naperville, Illinois! Karen was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions for us about her experience in genealogy...

·    How did you become interested in genealogy?  How long have you been researching?
     Like so many others, my passion for genealogy began in 1977 as a high-school senior watching the Roots mini-series on TV. The show inspired me to take a local community-college class, explore the collections at Chicago’s Newberry Library, and interview my grandparents, their siblings and my great-grandmother. I borrowed a mimeograph machine to create family group sheets and pedigree charts.
     Fast forward to 2007, faced with an empty nest, I returned to genealogy and stumbled upon two articles questioning the validity of Alex Haley’s work. At that moment, I resolved to learn “serious” genealogy and embarked on a second educational program including study of scholarly journals,  and participation in genealogical conferences, week-long genealogical institutes, and the ProGen study program ( ). I achieved certification from the Board for Certification of Genealogists in April 2016.

·    What has been a defining moment in your career as a genealogist?
The National Genealogical Society honored me with their annual National Genealogical Society Quarterly’s Award of Excellence in May 2017 for my article “Rafael Arriaga: A Mexican Father in Michigan: Autosomal DNA Helps to Identify Paternity” published in the June 2016 issue. 

·    What are you most looking forward to at the ISGS annual fall conference?
Sharing my passion for using DNA test results to finally blast through those long-standing genealogical brick walls.

·    What should conference attendees look forward to at your lectures?
     Passion for the power of DNA to blast through brick walls.  My lecture “Spit and You Shall Find! AtDNA Identifies a Charming Scoundrel” will walk you through the research planning, evidence analysis, correlation and proof in a fun case study focusing on the use of X-DNA integrated with documentary research to achieve a proven conclusion.
     I am trained in clinical social work with over thirty years of clinical practice. I will share some suggestions to help you manage challenging discussions in my second lecture “Clinical Tips to Manage Conversations about Unexpected DNA Results.” The emphasis will be on respectful empathetic listening and non-judgmental word choice.

·    Can you tell us about some of your recent or upcoming projects?
     I serve the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) as a Trustee and chair the DNA Committee. I am proud of the role I played in the recent release of the new and modified DNA-related standards in BCG’s recently released Genealogy Standards, 2nd ed.
     I am a course coordinator for three genealogical institutes on many different topics related to the use of DNA for genealogical problem-solving. Working with students with all levels of experience using DNA continually reminds me of the power of DNA to advance our family histories.
     I am the author of one of the chapters “Drowning in DNA—The Genealogical Proof Standard Tosses a Lifeline” in Debbie Parker Wayne’s new book Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies.

     Registration is OPEN for the ISGS Fall Conference- click here for more information and to register!

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